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Once and for all: Who has the best on-campus coffee?

Cougar Grounds, a coffee shop run entirely by students, helps students stay fueled throughout the day. l Billion Tekleab/The Cougar

Coffee is an essential in nearly every college student’s lunchbox. But if you’re anything like me, you know coffee is more than just caffeine and sugar — it’s the atmosphere of the cafe, the presentation of the cup, the variety of options and the taste of the drink.

With that being said, which on-campus cafes provide the best coffee experience?

Start with Starbucks

By this point, coffee and Starbucks are nearly synonymous.  The green mermaid logo is instantly recognizable, desired and sets a quality standard.

An on-campus Starbucks can give you the quick fix you need if you beat peak business hours, otherwise you could be waiting a while for your rushed $4 frappuccino.

But if you manage to arrive during a slow period, sit back and relax on those big stairs of Student Center South and take in the ebb and flow of your 46,000 peers while sipping from your decently-brewed cup of marketing genius.

Our very own Shasta’s

Never mind the many different flavors of ice cream — Shasta’s has coffee, and it’s wildly cheap.

With 12 drinks on their menu, all under $4, Shasta’s seems like the best place to go if you want in-and-out coffee for less. The barista would recommend a latte, a customer favorite that only costs $2.50. Add a scoop of ice cream for 99 cents and you have the Shasta Special.

But don’t expect to sit down and chill. The ice cream parlor is somewhat of a fluorescent wasteland, and it might not be everyone’s ideal study spot.

Einstein Bros. Bagels can help  

Perfect for when you’re in a rush to class and you’re craving that joe is Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Located on the first floor of PGH, you’ll see plenty of faculty and graduate students meeting their caffeine needs in this lofty, no-frills establishment. Try their regular latte for $3.99 and customize it with a flavor shot for just 80 cents. 

Don’t ask for the iced pumpkin coffee advertised on their seasonal menu, however, because they don’t have it.

Clandestine in Cougar Grounds

Located in the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, and marked only by a pop-up sign, is Cougar Grounds. With a wide and eclectic menu, you’ll never get bored of coming here.

The soft lighting and comfortable seating make it the perfect spot to hangout with friends or have a conversation with your professor over an English Toffee Crunch frappe or a smooth vanilla latte that’ll cost you less than $5.  

So, Who Takes The Coffee Cake?

With many coffee shops around campus, students are conflicted as to which coffee tastes the best while not breaking the bank. Results from a survey conducted on The Cougar’s social media reveal that students and staff selected Cougar Grounds as the campus favorite.

Of the 50 members of the UH community who completed the coffee survey, nearly half marked Cougar Grounds as their favorite. l Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

Cougar Grounds is a hidden gem in between the Center for Student Success and Moody Towers, and Assistant Photo Editor Billion Tekleab has some strong feelings about the establishment: 

What sets Cougar Grounds apart from other places is the ground coffee beans themselves. I’ve observed in drinking Starbucks, The Nook, Einstein Bros. and Shasta’s coffee, just how consistently rough the drinks are as they goes down.

To fix this, I took up the “difficult customer” approach at each place. I’d add to my order extra pumps, more drizzles and different milks, in hopes that it would drown the burnt bean taste when in reality, I only drowned my wallet. Of course, some companies can’t help but burn their beans since the coffee is shipped in bulk.

Cougar Grounds, however, is the exception.

Each cup of coffee is made with perfectly complimentary flavors. Lattes generally start at $3.30, and the drinks there are so flawless that the price you pay stays that way.

For lactose intolerant coffee addicts, milk based substitutes cost only 60 cents, and a plus to Cougar Grounds is that they’re the only shop on campus that offers the iconic and tasty oat milk.

Now, if you would like to try this place out yourself, Cougar Grounds employee Courtney Huning recommends the most ordered drink — the Iced Vanilla Latte. Its balance of milk, ice, espresso shots and flavoring make it heavenly tasting and good for your college budget.

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